Golden Globe Race. Already a month at sea!

Michael Guggenberger on his yacht “Nuri”. Photo credit: André Rodrigues

Today there are only thirteen sailors struggling in the doldrums, looking for trade winds and a quick passage south. Simon Curwen (UK) crossed the equator in the lead on Thursday 6 October.

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Simon, who doesn’t have the fastest boat, took the lead at Cape Finisterre on September 9 and never let go. This experienced solo sailor appeared unfazed when his comfortable lead faded to less than 100 miles in the doldrums. His double and solo experience aboard his J/105 Voador for 15 years, and his solo practice in Mini 6.50 before that, have certainly served him well in the last few weeks.

First in the trade winds, he is now sailing at 5 knots across on a direct course towards the island of Trindade to his south, the next mark off Brazil which he should reach in 10 days. He is in a good mood, and enjoys the time spent at sea.

I’m quite happy to be alone with myself. I have music and books to read… Friends gave me tapes and I brought things I used to listen to when I was 20. It’s good to listen to this music again. So far, things are going well. I’m not bored at all. There is always tinkering to do… I spend two hours a day on the charts and the sextant, to do the calculations. You also have to look at the sails before going south. And sometimes we spend a huge amount of time, just to look at things…

Ertan Beskardes, who left the 2018 GGR early because he wasn’t ready for isolation, prepared well this time around, but the windless Doldrums left too much time to reflect. He called GGR race control to ask if the wind was going to be late! Photo Nora Havel/GGR2022
The whole fleet did not face the lack of wind, communications, information and the prolonged isolation in the same way. Don and the GGR PC Course team felt it during the weekly sessions. Participants can only call Race HQ, not family or friends, and some sailors have called to just talk, share their frustrations and feelings after a month of loneliness. Some wonder why they are there, others even if it is possible to continue without family contact.

Participants, who endured public attention and media pressure in the weeks leading up to departure, now welcome the weekly satellite media interviews as a welcome change to their routine, and the only chance to engage with the outside world.

GGR skippers have a little more contact with the outside world than their 1968 counterparts. Part of it is safety, like the mandatory daily tweet to race management, but also sharing their experience at sea with the public, such as the newly introduced weekly calls where a media outlet can call them for an exclusive interview.

The difference with 1968 is that there were not then the ubiquitous and immediate communications of today. Sailors were even worse off and could not communicate other than by throwing letters and films at passing ships or traveling to specific places like the Canaries, Cape Town, Australia or New Zealand. . The Golden Globe Race recreates these crossing points for letters and media content.

The instant communications and gratifications available to us in the modern world make the isolation of participants all the more intense, and sometimes painful. This is why we allow voluntary calls to PC Course GGR.

When the mind resists, it is sometimes the body that lets go. Guy Waites (UK), who had had a good week sailing, is struggling with swollen legs and ankles due to the humidity and lack of exercise. Michael Guggenberger (AUT) also takes care of his swollen feet, his hands and knees, damaged by the humidity and the work on board.

I dance a lot to keep in shape and treat my little health problems!

Pat Lawless (IRL) thinks he broke a rib when he was thrown into the cockpit.

I had an accident, the mainsail sheet grabbed me on the shoulder and threw me inside the cockpit, that was four days ago and I’ve had a sore rib ever since . The shoulder must have a torn ligament, but it’s slowly improving.


Pat Lawless: Onboard footage sailing from LSO to Lanzarote
When body and mind are fine, sometimes it’s the boat that’s the problem, as South African Jeremy Bagshaw has found.

Jeremy is fast, happy at sea, and hasn’t been injured since his ascent to the mast in Les Sables d’Olonne, but he found Oleanna unusually slow as Damien caught him. During a lull, he decided to dive in and inspect his coppercoat antifouling to discover to his horror that 70% of his hull was covered in barrows!

I inspected the hull in Spain on arriving from South Africa, and again in Les Sables d’Olonne before the start, and all was well. Two days after the Lanzarote gate, I dived again and saw nothing. Yesterday, just two weeks later, I was shocked to discover 2cm long barnacles colonizing the hull! Fortunately, I was able to get rid of it.


This obviously reminds us of the ordeal of Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) in 2018 who discovered in the Indian Ocean that the hull of Asteria was covered with barnacles. He did not dive at sea for fear of sharks and was not allowed to careen in Australian territorial waters. He finally completed his round the world in 322 days, good last, and earned the nickname “Captain Barnacle“.

The ordeal of the barnacles for Tapio Lehtinen – here in the company of Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, winner of the GGR 2018 – was the reason for his circumnavigation of the globe in 322 days, and his participation in 2022. Photo: GGR2018
This time, Tapio is not held back by molluscs. Not only has he been vying for Kirsten’s second place all week, he’s also posted the race’s second-best performance at 174.19 nautical miles per 24 hours! This morning, while having breakfast in the cockpit, he saw another sail a few miles away, it was Pat Lawless. A duel obviously ensued immediately, Tapio covering Pat all morning, injuring his elbow but having fun like never before in weeks! This bears witness to the intensity of the fight at the outposts, including in the middle of a desert ocean, in calm conditions.

So far, only Jeremy has seen the dreaded barnacles, but other sailors could fall victim to them. The doldrums calms are the last place they can dive and inspect their hulls before venturing into the southern hemisphere trade winds. Hope they do!

A minority, like Simon, is happy at sea, in good physical condition, and sails fast. This is the case again this week for Kirsten Neuschäfer (RSA), whose laconic tweets are proof that she is not suffering from a lack of communication!

It has been difficult to focus on preparing for such a big trip with growing public and media interest, in addition to the many pre-departure events. (…) I really enjoyed my solitude, and I had great moments of adrenaline, like steering the boat in squalls under gennaker, on the razor’s edge because I couldn’t leave the helm. Truly exhilarating times.


Kirsten Neuschäfer: on-board footage sailing from the LSO to Lanzarote
Kirsten, who came out of the Bay of Biscay in 9th place, consistently posts the best 24-hour distances in the fleet and holds the record at 174.73nm per day, moving her back to second place this morning.

I don’t know where I am in the fleet and I actually prefer not to know where the others are, and just enjoy sailing. I also like not having GPS and navigating without instruments

Another sailor who suffers neither from isolation nor physically, and is trying to get back to the forefront is the French favorite Damien Guillou, who has not stopped gaining places since his departure from Les Sables d’Olonne. With a delay of 6 days after having repaired and reinforced his wind speed regulator, he went from last to 6th place, leading the peloton at the start of the week, even if the doldrums regularly redistribute the classification.

With people around me, I’m in the position of a racer. A cruise ship is not restful when you run it like a racing boat. We’ve been gone for a month. There are at least five left… The tide will soon turn. Even if we don’t have the weather forecast on board, the Saint Helena High can generate monstrous deviations.

Many are wondering if the obvious speed, talent, work and determination of the Finistère, which presided over his incredible ‘comeback’ over the main fleet, will be enough to catch up with the frontrunners.

Michel Desjoyeaux, who won his second victory in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe after returning to Les Sables d’Olonnes following damage 200 miles from the coast, and leaving 40 hours late, gave us a hint on twitter a few days ago:

He is making a ‘Desjoyeaux’, only better! If I may!

Yes Professor, you can afford it!

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Golden Globe Race. Already a month at sea!